Most employees were working for free all along, sustained by the promise of huge commissions when the big deals closed. By winter 2009, they were leaving in a steady trickle, until the company today has been reduced to Mr. Zackson and one assistant working from a single desk out of a borrowed office at 1501 Broadway.
“I’m sure there were a lot of people who thought they were going to make a lot of money out of the [Drake] transaction,” said Stephen Delman, an attorney who works with the company, “so they suffered personal financial adversities, but that really wasn’t a function of closing up shop.”
Nonetheless, the lights were about to go out. “Arthur, I expect the phone and internet to be cut off any moment,” another lawyer that worked with the company wrote in an email to Mr. Cohen in May. “The office will then not be able to operate, it will cease to function, callers will be told the number has been disconnected and there will be no point any of us coming in.”
Mr. Zackson was on the brink of losing the company he had built. As things unraveled, he poured his frustrations out in a virtually incomprehensible email: “Paul it s hard to take Arthur when I am place I am he is just plain dumb about real estate how I let him take me with his bulls hit and no $ I never came to him for this kind of $ he was the 10 percent now he give me $5000 last week and thinks he helped and how to get back overhead…I just can not live this way keep my head up.”
In another frantic email, Mr. Zackson wrote: “Arthur You and I do not have an end like this This is plane wrong, leaving me with all the headaces from our partnership and killing me and my company. Brad.”
Mr. Zackson met The Observer on a recent Tuesday afternoon in a conference room in his lawyer’s office on the 29th floor of 515 Madison. Now 51, he wore an untucked navy golf shirt and khakis, his small eyes still boyish but set off by deep dark circles. He twitched nervously, deferring many questions to his lawyer and speaking softly, in fragments, between sips of green tea.
“We, as a company, looked at just about everything in New York,” he said. “Just about every site that Darcy Stacom sold, every other major broker sold, Manhattan House, the St. John’s center. A lot of projects that we are very fortunate that we came close to and didn’t win because a lot of them are distressed sites right now.”
Mr. Manafort is no longer actively involved, according to Mr. Zackson, who is developing a 37-acre shopping center in Chicago with Mr. Cohen. Dynamic has also become an investor in renewable energy. (Messrs. Cohen and Manafort did not respond to multiple requests for comment, nor did Mr. Macklowe.)
Despite the private feuding, Mr. Zackson maintains a childlike admiration for his mentor, Mr. Cohen. “He has not lost any skills,” Mr. Zackson said. “He works very hard. He works us very hard.”
But past dreams of becoming one of the city’s great development teams are gone.
At the end of the interview, Mr. Zackson showed The Observer some weighty music boxes, private New Year’s gifts to Arthur Cohen from mall mogul Sam Zell. Mr. Zackson wound up one from 1999. A song, privately commissioned by Mr. Zell from Paul Simon and heard only by a handful of people in the past 12 years, floated forth:
“The problem is all inside your head,” she said to me.
“The answer is easy if you think less logically.
I’d like to help you all get rich at 23.
There must be 50 ways to make a billion.”